RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick / CalgaryFlames.com

It doesn’t matter where you were drafted or how long it took to get there.

That first taste of the pros?

It hits different.

“It was an eye-opener, for sure,” said 2022 fifth-round pick, Parker Bell. “You quickly realize how high of a level of hockey it is, and how professionally those guys carry themselves.

“It’s not that I didn’t expect that … But when you step onto the ice for the first time, you feel it.”

Bell made his AHL debut on April 14, before playing the very next night, too, and recording his first-ever point – an assist – at the pro level. The Campbell River, B.C., native was coming off an excellent 19-year-old season with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans, recording 64 points (25G, 34A) to finish second in team scoring.

Bell added six points (2G, 4A) in as many spring playoff dates, but the Americans were ousted by the Prince George Cougars in the opening round of the postseason.

Three days later, he hopped on a plane to Calgary after signing an amateur tryout agreement with the AHL Wranglers.

And kickstarting what he hopes will be a long stay at the Scotiabank Saddledome.

“Last year, I really focused on getting bigger and stronger – and for the most part, I think I did that,” Bell said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do, but I’ve seen some good progress. In terms of my game, coming out of turns with a little more speed, that’s my biggest priority now.”

So, in other words … precisely what Flames Skating Coach Danielle Fujita has him working on this week at WinSport?

“Exactly,” Bell laughed. “It’s been a grind, but this stuff is so good for all of us. I’ve already learned a ton and working with the staff here on a daily basis, it’s great. It’s a good group and I’m having lots of fun.”


One thing’s for sure: He certainly stands out.

The 6-foot-4, 200-lb. left-winger joins Adam Klapka (6’7″), Sam Honzek (6’4″) Jaden Lipinski (6’4″) and Chad Hillebrand (6’4″) as the High Five among forwards at Development Camp. So, on size alone… he’s impossible to miss.

You can see the strides he’s taken with his footspeed over the past year, showing off his improvement edgework, along with an explosive first step, before darting into the middle and firing the puck with good authority.

He’s only 19, so the package remains a work-in-progress. And as a 2003-born player, he still has one more year of WHL eligibility. But for a player that’s committed as he is – with Calgary being his homebase for off-season training – there’s no telling what his ceiling is.

After all, that’s not for anyone to decide, but the player himself.

“When I was young, I watched a lot of the Penguins with Crosby and Evgeni Malkin,” Bell said. “They’re obviously a lot better than me, but I have the size that Malkin does, so it’s pretty hard not to watch and try to (emulate) him in some ways.

“He’s a big guy and a great skater. But most importantly – smart.

“Those are three good traits to have at this level and that’s the type of game I want to make for myself.”